Jóhann Jóhannsson IBM 1401, A User's Manual

Somewhere along the way in his upgrade from the venerable Touch label to the much larger 4AD, the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson must have decided that his compositions didn’t reveal enough sentimentality. How else could he make the leap from the stringent minimalism of 2004’s Virthulegu Forsetar, in which an 11-piece orchestra practically held the same note for 65 minutes, to his latest album, in which he lacquers on the sugar like he was scoring a "serious” Denzel Washington movie. The fact that much of this composition was inspired by a 1964 IBM computer, one of the earlier data processing systems built, doesn’t register much here apart from a reading from its instruction manual and the liner notes. Parts of this album are pleasant, even moving at times, but more often the listener is left to wonder if Jóhannsson’s quest for the sublime hasn’t just rendered his work too pretty. That said, if you’re a fan of Max Richter or even Sigur Rós, then this album hits the mark. Though if you’re chasing after a continuation of the Touch catalogue at a more affordable price, IBM 1401 is lacking. (4AD)